Christen Press, seen here while on U.S. Women's National team duty, scored both of Tyresö's goals in today's 2-1 win over visiting Paris Saint-Germain. Here 21 goals in 20 Damallsvenkan games this season are six more than the next-highest goal-scorer in Sweden. (Photo: AP Photo.)

Christen Press continues racking up goals as U.S. down Netherlands, 3-1


Christen Press was a non-factor under Pia Sundhage, but under Tom Sermanni, she has six goals in seven games, her double in Den Haag leading the U.S. Women to an easy 3-1 victory over the Netherlands on Tuesday.

The match was never really a contest. Early intensity from the U.S. pushed the hosts onto their heels, making it nearly impossible for the Dutch to move through the middle of the field. Pressure from the likes of Press, Sydney Leroux, and Heather O’Reilly made life easier for midfielders Yael Averbuch and Julie Johnston, giving Sermanni few chances to judge the central defense pairing of Rachel Buehler and Becky Sauerbrunn. The Netherlands were only able to generate one half-chance before the match was out of reach.

For all their dominance, it look the U.S. 36 minutes to get on the board, though when they did, it was relatively simple. Leroux broke down the left side of the Netherlands defense before playing a square ball into the area for Tobin Heath. With the defense collapsing on Press, Heath had no trouble giving the U.S. a 1-0 lead.

Just before halftime, the U.S. doubled their lead when Dutch captain Daphne Koster failed to track Press’s run onto a Leroux touched a ball behind the Netherland’s defense. Goalkeeper Loes Geurts was left abandoned as Press was able to shoot from just inside the area, finishing another easy U.S. goal.

Fifteen minutes into the second, Press struck again – a clinical piece of finishing few in the U.S. striker pool would be able to replicate. After turning her defender with a dribble off her left foot, Press let go of a shot from just inside the right side of the area. Geurts was positioned well, but when the ball curled away from her outstretched right arm and dove toward the lower left hand corner, the Dutch keeper proved unable to defend the small far post window Press exploited for her double.

After the disappointment of giving up a 3-1 lead to Germany on Friday, Tuesday’s match turned out to be a stroll. The Dutch were outshot 19-5, with the U.S. putting nine shots on frame to their hosts’ two. Only a late defensive lapse allowed Manon Melis to ruin Ashlyn Harris’s clean sheet.

source: APBut as much as conceding late goals might be a concern, the takeaway from Tuesday’s game was another illustration of the U.S.’s enviable attacking depth. Sydney Leroux (right) terrorized a Dutch defense that came nowhere close to matching her speed and physicality. They seemed to resigned to bringing Leroux down late in the match – their last hopes of containing her. Tobin Heath looked sharp, particularly when taking defenders on one-on-one, while Heather O’Reilly again reminded Sermanni that she has a role in the debate between her, Megan Rapinoe, and others for starting spots.

And then there’s Christen Press, the former Stanford star who toiled outside the national team while staring in WPS and Sweden. It’s a story would be old and worn out if it weren’t for the paradox every goal Press adds to an already remarkable start. During the Olympic and (to a lesser extent) World Cup cycles, onlookers wondered why somebody with Press’s credentials wasn’t being called in. All the while people like myself would say “With Wambach, Morgan, Rodriguez and Leroux, where’s the room?”

Sermanni has made room. He did so by initially starting her at right midfield, but with Tuesday’s two-goal performance in a forward’s role (the second double of her international career), Press threw some gas on the fire: If we had to rank the U.S.’s forwards, where do you slot a 24-year-old whose scored six times in her first seven games?

Perhaps not that high, right now. Alex Morgan’s arguably the world’s best player. Abby Wambach has come back strong after a disappointing winter, and every time Leroux starts, she reminds us she’s the most physically gifted attacker in the squad.

But until Press slows down, we have to keep asking. And Sermanni has to keep testing: How good is Christen Press?

Matches like these are usually pretty meaningless, the competitive benefits of a down-cycle friendly negligible. But for a new coach looking to expand the narrow player pool used to compete for the last two major tournaments, matches like Tuesday’s in Den Haag are invaluable. How else can you uncover the Christen Presses of the world?

“Overweight” Costa comes to Mourinho’s defense

Diego Costa, Chelsea FC
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Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.

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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”

Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:

“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.

“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.

Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.

[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]

Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.

Sam Allardyce to open talks with Sunderland

Sam Allardyce, West Ham United FC
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Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)

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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.

That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.

One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.

[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]

Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.

Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.